The Woman at the Washtub by Victor J. Daley

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The Woman at the Washtub,
   She works till fall of night;
With soap and suds and soda
   Her hands are wrinkled white.
Her diamonds are the sparkles
   The copper-fire supplies;
Her opals are the bubbles
   That from the suds arise.

The Woman at the Washtub
   Has lost the charm of youth;
Her hair is rough and homely,
   Her figure is uncouth;
Her temper is like thunder,
   With no one she agrees --
The children of the alley
   They cling around her knees.

The Woman at the Washtub,
   She too had her romance;
There was a time when lightly
   Her feet flew in the dance.
Her feet were silver swallows,
   Her lips were flowers of fire;
Then she was Bright and Early,
   The Blossom of Desire.

O Woman at the Washtub,
   And do you ever dream
Of all your days gone by in
   Your aureole of steam?
From birth till we are dying
   You wash our sordid duds,
O Woman of the Washtub!
   O Sister of the Suds!

One night I saw a vision
   That filled my soul with dread,
I saw a Woman washing
   The grave-clothes of the dead;
The dead were all the living,
   And dry were lakes and meres,
The Woman at the Washtub
   She washed them with her tears.

I saw a line with banners
   Hung forth in proud array --
The banners of all battles
   From Cam to judgment Day.
And they were stiff with slaughter
   And blood, from hem to hem,
And they were red with glory,
   And she was washing them.

"Who comes forth to the judgment,
   And who will doubt my plan?"
"I come forth to the judgment
   And for the Race of Man.
I rocked him in his cradle,
   I washed him for his tomb,
I claim his soul and body,
   And I will share his doom."

First published in The Bulletin, 29 November 1902;
and later in
Wine and Roses by Victor J. Daley, 1911;
The Worker, 23 April 1914;
The Register, 26 May 1925 and 26 June 1928;
Freedom on the Wallaby: Poems of the Australian People edited by Marjorie Pizer, 1953;
The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Les Murray, 1986;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004;
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 29, 2011 6:57 AM.

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